Harvest in Rutherglen starts approximately the first week of February and runs through to the end of April. Many vineyards in the region have old or ancient vineyards therefore they must be hand picked. Many use the modern method of machine harvesting.
Dry sparkling wine is picked first, through to dry whites, lighter style reds, medium bodied red and then lastly the fortifieds.
2011 Vintage Wrap Up
An exceptionally wet spring and summer combined with periods of high humidity, provided challenging conditions for the control of mildews and botrytis. Also throughout the growing season the temperatures were much cooler hence vintage started three weeks later than average. The fruit has been picked at slightly lower baumé levels than usual yet has produced wines of good colour, varietal characters and structure.
2010 Vintage Report
The 2010 season was a much less challenging season than the past 3 years for all vineyards. However, this season continued to be dominated by the long term drought. The 2010 vintage was generally later than the previous five years, ranging from 10 days to almost a month.
The ongoing drought has continued to affect Rutherglen, with the vineyards only receiving 69% (or 409mm) of their annual average rainfall of 587mm in 2009, the effects of the drought however, have lessened as the season has progressed. The start of 2010 season had been much more favourable with regular rainfall events in February and March, including two events during February of greater than 25mm, and one event during March of greater than 50mm across the vineyards. The rainfall earlier this year has meant that, for the first time since 2005, the vineyards have received more rainfall than the long term average - a pleasing and hopefully positive sign for the coming season.
The regular rainfall events throughout the vintage period resulted in moderate pest and disease pressure. There were minor levels of splitting to a lot of vineyard blocks, which in some cases did have some impact on yields. Some humidity from the previous rain events leading up to the Labour Day long weekend was the principle reason some vineyards experienced high level of Botrytis.
The daily maximum temperatures throughout 2009 remained above average which was especially evident during November where temperatures were 5.60C above the long term average. However, the temperatures throughout the 2010 vintage were generally mild, with temperatures returning to slightly above or on average. The mild to warm conditions throughout vintage facilitated favourable ripening and harvesting of fruit.
Ripening was steady without being too rapid which resulted in a longer vintage than 2009 with less congestion at most of the wineries. Flavour ripeness across the region was generally achieved at lower sugar levels, which hopefully will lead to wines with greater balance. There was also a good progression of varieties ripening in appropriate sequence which meant there was a clear gap between varieties. Cabernet followed on from Shiraz etc. This enabled an orderly scheduling of harvest and all fruit to be harvested within the ripeness specifications of wineries.
Yields in general were slightly below estimates. Nonetheless, a much higher level of accuracy was achieved in yield estimation than in the previous two seasons. The slight decrease in yields this season has been a result of three factors; • the continuing long term drought conditions at the start of the growing season, which continued to put the vines under stress at the beginning of the season, • the abnormally high temperatures during November which caused some disruption to flowering and resulted in fruit set being affected in some varieties and • the rainfall events throughout February and March mentioned above, which caused botrytis and splitting in some varieties.
The net result was that, across all vineyards, yields were 10 - 20% below our pre-season target.
The overall trend is that the 2010 wines are showing improved structure but some, do not however, have the palate weight and lifted fruit characters of the 2009 vintage fruit. The reasons for this are not entirely clear but, the rainfall during early ripening is likely to be the main cause. The yields were higher than 2009 on average and this may also have had some effect.
From all accounts harvest again ran very smoothly and safely for all vineyard and winery operators and operations.
2010 Vintage Wrap Up
2010 was a much better year for grape-growing than the previous three years. A very satisfactory result has been achieved on most vineyards across the region and fruit quality has continued to improve albeit sometimes in small increments. After a slow start to the season due to the continuing drought, and then a heat-wave throughout November 2009 and through the flowering period, the levels of optimism have been increased for Vintage 2011 following a successful 2010 vintage and above average rainfall in early 2010. It can only be hoped that this trend continues throughout the winter months in Rutherglen which would bode well for a better vintage in 2011. Considerable work is continuing however to ensure that, even if next season's weather is unfavourable, target yields are achieved. It is encouraging that grape quality has been maintained in nearly all of the varieties across the region.